Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Things I Can Live Without: The culture of anti-smoking

Full disclosure: I am a former heavy smoker who hasn't touched a cigarette since September 2005, with the exception of lighting a cigarette for a gentleman who had fallen after slipping on some ice in January 2010. (As the first responder, it was my next order of business after calling the ambulance.) Far from triggering a relapse, that brief puff only reinforced how glad I am to have left that filthy habit behind.

With that out of the way, let me say that I find our society's fixation on demonizing smokers highly suspect, as I believe very little of it has anything to do with saving lives.

Can cigarettes cause cancer? Absolutely. On the other hand, we live in a world that is chockablock with known carcinogens, or things that could be shown to be carcinogenic if the powers that be had the appetite to get to the bottom of it.

What about the other things that cause illness and misery, such as the overconsumption of alcohol? Where are the scary warning labels on booze? "This product can destroy your family." "Alcohol consumption can lead to transgressive or abusive behavior." "This is a liver bloated by a lifetime of liquid lunches." (In fairness, there is a movement here in Ontario for such labels, but as far as I can tell it is still just that - a movement rather than a sanctioned cause.)

How about the stress the average person takes on while pursuing their required alotment of status symbols? Years ago, my old family doctor told me that easily 80 percent of the cases coming through his practice were stress-related. If his observation is representative of the public at large, then why hasn't stress been declared a wide-scale public health emergency? Where is the movement to unilaterally ban its biggest causes? (My own belief is that there are some who work themselves sick, and others who benefit economically from that unwarranted level of loyalty and commitment, but that's a whole other thing.)

In the end, cigarettes are an easy target: they're stinky, they discolor human tissue after prolonged exposure, and are unhealthy enough to distract the populace from asking serious questions about other sources of illness.

Instead, we have ever more graphic warning labels that I presume are meant leave us with the warm and gooey feeling that comes with knowing that cancer is being eradicated, one supposedly grossed-out smoker at a time.

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NEXT - Things I Like: Public transit


  1. I wish the scourge of smoking was attacked more, with entirely much stricter vehemence, so smokers would get the message. As a ten-year-old sitting in the back seat of a car with three adults smoking, I can't tell you how that memory still drums the anger in me.

  2. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment!

    I certainly agree with your sentiments when it comes to exposing children to second-hand smoke, as well as others who choose not to smoke.

    I can remember being a 10-year-old with acute bronchitis sitting in a poorly-ventilated doctor's office waiting room, barely able to breath while a man was puffing away on a cigarette only seats away.

    How times have changed.